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Pandemic Impacted 2020 Traveler Spending in the Greater St. Croix Valley

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, traveler spending in St. Croix County decreased from $119.6 million in 2019 to an estimated $90.3 million in 2020 (down -24.52%) according to an annual analysis released May 4th by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. Total sales for businesses in the county were also down, falling from $197.6 million in 2019 to $158.1 million in 2020 (down -20.0%). Even in the pandemic, however, spending from travelers and tourists supported an estimated 1,746 jobs in St. Croix (down -15.75% from 2019) and generated $11.9 million in state and local tax revenues (down -19.78% from 2019).

Statewide, travelers spent an estimated $9.8 billion in 2020, a decrease of -28.29% from 2019. Total business sales from tourists in Wisconsin in 2020 were estimated at $17.26 billion (a decline of -22.32% from 2019). 2020 tourism and traveler-supported employment in Wisconsin fell -22.2% to 157,332 jobs. Employment topped the 200,000 milestone for the first time in 2019. Tourism also provided the state with tax revenues of $1.16 billion in 2020, down from $1.61 billion in 2019 (-28.13% decrease from 2019).

2020 visitor spending in the Greater St. Croix Valley (St. Croix, Polk, and Pierce counties) was estimated at $197.7 million compared to $245.8 million in 2019 (a -19.57% decline). In addition to the estimated $90.3 million of spending in St. Croix, travelers spent $83.0 million in Polk and $24.4 million in Pierce.

Total business sales from travelers and visitors in the Greater St. Croix Valley in 2020 were estimated at $330.4 million compared to $398.6 million in 2019 (a decrease of -17.1%). Business sales per county include $158.1 million in St. Croix, $124.8 million in Polk, and $47.5 million in Pierce.

Tourism-related employment in the three county region for 2020 was estimated at 3,134 jobs (down -15.58% from 2019) and included 1,746 jobs in St. Croix, 1,000 in Polk, and 388 in Pierce.

2020 state and local tax revenue attributable to visitors and travelers in the Greater St. Croix Valley was estimated at $22.9 million (down -18.21% from 2019) and includes $11.9 million from St. Croix, $8.1 million from Polk, and $2.9 million from Pierce.

Milwaukee is the state’s top county for visitor spending, estimated at $1.33 billion (down -39.32% from 2019). Other counties in the Top 10 include Sauk ($958.6 million; down -16.3%); Dane ($782.5 million; down -42.52%); Waukesha ($573.4 million; down -32.37%); Brown ($475.5 million; down -33.76%); Walworth ($437.7 million; down -25.12%); Door ($304.2 million; down -18.77%); Vilas ($231.7 million; down -3.95%); Outagamie ($230.8 million; down -38.48% ); and Oneida ($211.5 million; down -12.30%).

Tourism is one of Wisconsin’s top three industries along with manufacturing and agriculture. Throughout 2020, grant funds through Wisconsin’s share of the CARES Act were distributed to tourist-reliant businesses. A rebound is expected in 2021 as the economy re-opens.